Road rage-style films have been around for decades. One of the most popular was ‘Duel’, director Steven Spielberg’s first film. Others such as ‘Road Kill’ and the Australian movie ‘Road Games’ offered variations on the ‘killer on the road’ theme. ‘Unhinged’ is in the same vein, proving once again to always be careful on life’s dark, deadly highways.

Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is a divorced single mother trying to carve out a new life. Trouble ensues when she becomes involved in a road rage incident with unstable stranger Tom (Russell Crowe). Developing a disturbing fixation with her, Tom goes to great lengths to torment his prey in a psychological battle of wills.

‘Unhinged’ follows a basic formula walking a predictable path. Whilst this thriller doesn’t have a lot of true depth, Derrick Borte’s direction effectively ramps up the requisite tension. He differentiates ‘Unhinged’ from similar films by having the chases in an urban environment. This adds to the claustrophobic feeling Rachel feels as she battles Tom’s increasingly twisted psychosis.

Themes of how current society can break an easily fractured mind provides interest. Very much like the Michael Douglas film ‘Falling Down’ in that respect, ‘Unhinged’ explores a little in how far someone goes in pushing against everyday pressures. This is quickly discarded halfway through to allow Crowe to deliver his best ‘eye-rolling baddie’ impersonation, which is full of brute force and one he clearly relishes. Pistorius is a good foil and offers an authentic counter-balance to Crowe’s often ridiculously over the top performance.

Unlike ‘Unhinged’ mentally disturbed antagonist, the film doesn’t outstay its welcome. Borte runs a tight ship within its no-frills timeframe. Although it may be strange calling ‘Unhinged’ ‘fun viewing’, it’s an exciting cinematic carnival ride more preferable than being stuck with Crowe’s dangerously warped character.

Rating out of 10: 7


Fifty Shades Freed

The ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ books and films were never considered high art. E.L. James’ writing was more akin to a down market Jackie Collins novel than Shakespeare. Nonetheless, the series became hugely popular among a particular demographic who couldn’t get enough of its adult antics. ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ is the last film in the series with its climax potentially offering merciful relief to many.

Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Grey (Dakota Johnson) are newly married and look forward to the future. Unfortunately their past catches up with them in the form of Anastasia’s former boss Jack (Eric Johnson). Still infatuated with Anastasia’s charms, Jack will do anything to destroy her new union. Death and emotional destruction await with both colluding to prevent a happy ending.

‘Fifty Shades Freed’ finally ends what has been a generally mediocre series. Whilst the locations and glossy look of the films have been suitably spectacular, other facets have been left wanting. Chief among them have been the performances during which the actors wear a permanently embarrassed look throughout. ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ gives them little depth with Christian and Anastasia a terminally uninteresting couple consistently generating less sizzle and more fizzle.

James Foley deserves kudos for turning E.L. James’ crude prose into something watchable with his fair direction. The light thrills, overwrought shenanigans and romance are mechanically whipped into shape against the soft-rock soundtrack. Hopefully all involved enjoyed the money made from this series as the lack of genuine enthusiasm shown on screen highlights how ‘memorable’ the franchise has been.

Although looking expensive, ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ is anchored by cheap plotting and miniscule acting. These type of movies have admirers who happily go onto the next big screen fad requiring a modicum of thought. The best thing one can say about ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ is that the appearance of its end credits draws smiles missing from its previous two hours.

Rating out of 10: 1